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Agave lechuguilla (Lechuguilla) | NPIN
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Agave lechuguilla (Lechuguilla)
Lytle, Melody

Agave lechuguilla

Agave lechuguilla Torr.

Lechuguilla, Tula ixtle

Agavaceae (Century-Plant Family)

Synonym(s): Agave lophantha var. poselgeri

USDA Symbol: agle

USDA Native Status: L48 (N)

The succulent, yellow-green rosettes of lechuguilla are 1-2 ft. tall and widely suckering. Thick, leathery leaves are tipped with a strong spine. The lechuguilla, like its relative, the maguey or century plant, requires 12–15 years to store up enough food for the production of the large flower stalk, which then grows amazingly fast up to 15 feet tall. The stalk is unbranched and flexible, so that it often bends when it is heavy with buds or flowers, retaining a permanent, graceful arc. The upper part of the stalk is covered with a solid mass of purplish or yellowish flowers. After producing flowers and seeds, the stalk dies.

This formidable plant was a dangerous obstacle in the early exploration of the Southwest. The sharp leaves pierced horses legs, and a rider who fell could be impaled. Horses familiar with the country can usually avoid it.

 

Plant Characteristics

Duration: Perennial
Habit: Cactus/Succulent
Leaf Complexity: Simple
Size Notes: 1-2 feet.
Fruit:
Size Class: 12-36 ft.

Bloom Information

Bloom Color: White , Pink , Yellow
Bloom Time: May , Jun , Jul

Distribution

USA: NM , TX
Native Distribution: W. TX, s. NM & Mex.
Native Habitat: Desert plains; mountains

Growing Conditions

Water Use: Low
Light Requirement: Sun
Soil Moisture: Dry
Cold Tolerant: yes
Heat Tolerant: yes
Soil Description: Dry, rocky, limestone soils.
Conditions Comments: The succulent, yellow-green rosettes of lechuguilla are widely suckering. Thick, leathery leaves are tipped with a strong spine. A cluster of yellow to pinkish-white flowers occurs on a 6-9 ft. stalk which rises from center of rosette after 8-20 years. After setting fruit, the entire plant dies. This agave is often cultivated in rock gardens. It is tolerant of poor, acid soil.

Benefit

Use Wildlife: The plant reproduces by putting out offshoots, which are often eaten by deer and javelinas.
Use Food: The hearts not safe to eat. Dangerously high concentrations of saponins and other toxic compounds.(Tull) Pulque, mescal, and tequila are made from the fermented sap of the flower stalk.
Use Medicinal: Toxic juice from leaves used as arrow poison, a fish stupefier, a medicine and a soap. (Tull) Tarahumara people of Mexico once used the plants poisonous compounds on their arrows and in water to poison fish.
Use Other: Leaf fibers for cordage for bow strings, nets, baskets, mats, sandals, blankets, and cloth. Roots pounded and soaked in water used for soap and shampoo. (Tull) Native Americans obtained fiber from the leaves to make rope, mats, and baskets.
Warning: Certain compounds in Lechuguilla are poisonous, and livestock can die from eating this plant during a drought, when the succulent leaves become the forage of last resort. Humans should generally avoid consuming any plants that are toxic to animals. The leaves of Lechuguilla are so sharp they can cause injury to animals and humans and can even puncture the tires of off-road vehicles.
Interesting Foliage: yes

Butterflies and Moths of North America (BAMONA)

Agave lechuguilla is a larval host and/or nectar source for:
Coahuila Giant-Skipper
(Agathymus remingtoni)

Larval Host
Learn more at BAMONA

Propagation

Propagation Material: Seeds
Description: Fresh, untreated seed. Young plants, which grow around the base of the rosette, may be separated and transplanted in late winter and early spring.
Seed Collection: As soon as capsules begin to dry out and turn brown but before they split and disperse the seeds (late summer through fall). Seeds can be stored for one year in refrigerated, ventilated containers.
Seed Treatment: Not Available
Commercially Avail: yes

From the National Organizations Directory

According to the species list provided by Affiliate Organizations, this plant is on display at the following locations:

NPSOT - Austin Chapter - Austin, TX

Bibliography

Bibref 1186 - Field Guide to Moths of Eastern North America (2005) Covell, C.V., Jr.
Bibref 1185 - Field Guide to Western Butterflies (Peterson Field Guides) (1999) Opler, P.A. and A.B. Wright
Bibref 355 - Landscaping with Native Plants of Texas and the Southwest (1991) Miller, G. O.
Bibref 308 - Lone Star Field Guide to Wildflowers, Trees, and Shrubs of Texas, Revised Edition (2003) Tull, D. & G.O. Miller
Bibref 995 - Native Landscaping from El Paso to L.A. (2000) Wasowski, S. and A. Wasowski
Bibref 248 - Texas Wildflowers: A Field Guide (1984) Loughmiller, C. & L. Loughmiller

Search More Titles in Bibliography

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Additional resources

USDA: Find Agave lechuguilla in USDA Plants
FNA: Find Agave lechuguilla in the Flora of North America (if available)
Google: Search Google for Agave lechuguilla

Metadata

Record Modified: 2014-03-14
Research By: TWC Staff

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